MotorHome’s 35th Year: In the Rearview Mirror

In 1968, Motorgome Life as launched as an annual motorhome buyers guide on American
newsstands. The 88 featured models ranged from 18 to 31 feet, priced from $8,150 to
$19,995. At that time, recreational vehicle was abbreviated RecV, and some Class C’s were
referred to as housecars.

In 1971, MotorHome Life (MHL) became a bimonthly, and the annual
buyers guide listed 250 models. By then, recreational vehicles were called RVs and those
who used them, RVers. In January 1977, the magazine progressed to nine issues a year. In
January 1982, the name was streamlined to MotorHome (MH). A year later, the magazine went
monthly, so 2003 is actually a double anniversary. In 1984, the first-ever towed-vehicle
guide featured ratings on 85 cars suitable for towing behind a motorhome. In 1985,
Fleetwood Enterprises introduced the innovative Bounder, the first motorhome with a
“basement” storage compartment. In 1988, Ford’s F-Super Duty chassis entered the RV market.

The MH towed-vehicle guide was so popular when updated in 1989, it has been published
annually ever since. In 1991, MH tested the first production motorhome with slideouts,
Newmar’s 37-foot London Aire. The Coachmen Royal 38-foot diesel-pusher Class A, which MH
columnist Gaylord Maxwell helped design with input from full-timing readers, was produced.
In his column, Publisher Bill Estes called 1994 “the year of the big mini,” referring to
longer (over 26 feet) and wider (100- and 102-inch-wide) motorhomes (96 inches is
standard), and the legalization of widebody vehicles gradually being approved, state by
state.

In 1995, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) added weight-labeling to
requirements for RV manufacturers, addressing an issue that had plagued the industry for
years. In 1998, Ford’s and GM’s heavier RV chassis, permitting longer gasoline-powered
coaches, were featured. Two new lightweight diesel-pusher chassis (from Spartan and
Freightliner) began to compete with gas-powered units. Fleetwood Enterprises’ annual
motorhome sales passed $1 billion, an industry first. The California-based manufacturer
introduced the innovative SmartRoom, which converts a 30-square-foot bedroom into an office
or a playroom. And according to a study, 45 percent of all RVs made in 1999 contained a
slideout.

In 2000, the RVIA added a cargo-carrying-capacity label requirement on all new
RVs. 2001 MH articles compared the cost of motorhoming at $2, $2.50 and $3 a gallon for
fuel. In his January 2002 column, Estes wrote that “you can buy a well-equipped and
well-appointed new motorhome for less than it would have cost a decade ago if inflation is
taken into account.”

For more information about MotorHome’s 35th Year, pick up the June
2003 issue of MotorHome on the newsstand.

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